Candy-cane smokestacks, glittery oil wells, Kool-Aid sludge. These are the sugar-coated, artificial impressions in David LaChapelle’s latest solo show, LAND SCAPE, at Paul Kasmin gallery. The sites in the photographs — oil refineries and gas stations — are scale models, made out of cardboard, egg cartons, hair curlers, and other recycled materials. Shown as shining, color-saturated, cartoon-like places, they are thus reduced, sweetened, and otherwise stripped of their negative, inconvenient connotations — in order to shed light on those very connotations. The backgrounds — the coastlines of California and the jungles of Maui — are photographed realistically.
This is familiar territory for LaChapelle, who’s made a career out of extreme airbrushing, the objectification of self-involvement and addiction, and repeatedly crossing the line between beautiful and grotesque. Drag queens, transexuals, eccentrics, fashion designers, and now petroleum dependence, have been burnished to the point of otherworldliness.
David LaChapelle, LAND SCAPE, January 17 – March 1, 2014, Paul Kasmin, 293 Tenth Ave, NYC